Home for Christmas

Sam at home for Christmas 2007

I promised Mariel that I’ll be home for Christmas. And it’s one that I will keep despite the expected “lumps”. Most of you know that Sam and I have lived as voluntary “refugees” at my sister Alma’s home since Mariel passed away. It’s been impossible to live at our house knowing that it’s “soul” is now gone. For Mariel was quite simply the one that made it a place to call “home”.

Christmas Eve was spent with us hosting the traditional ” noche buena” or Christmas feast at Mandaluyong for my mom Conchita, sis Alma, brother-in-law Baguie and their two wonderful kids, Trisha and Gabby, who fondly call me “toto” and Mariel as their “naning”. It was a simple dinner with Mariel’s  favorite Spaghetti and various Filipino sweets and goodies. We reserved places for some friends and of course our beloved Mariel. We had the usual gift-giving and ended the night with a special prayer for Mariel. I missed though getting those nice shirts from Mariel this year. But it doesn’t matter, I’m sure that there will be some waiting for me when we again meet.

Mommy I miss you and I know you were with us that night. I promise that I’ll always be home for Christmas no matter what. So be sure to have some fresh pasta ready. Have a Merry Christmas with everyone up there in Heaven. XOXOXO

Not the Usual Christmas

Mariel and Sam at Santa Clarita mall 2004

It just hit me tonight that it’s almost Christmas day. I’ve been very anxious about its coming as it’s the first one that Sam and I will be spending without our love Mariel.

Grief counselors advise you to plan for these dates. But how can one really prepare for living life without that someone who had made it all worthwhile. I’m thankful though that I have Sam. For she’s the one that can sometimes ease the numbing pain.

In a way, I was fortunate that recent urgent concerns at the office had momentarily distracted me from brooding over my situation. But since “school’s out” now and I don’t think I’d be able to escape the usual gift- giving duties that come with the season, I had no choice but to make another brave trip to the mall to try to shop for Christmas presents.

Mariel was the genius at this craft She had taken extra care to match the gifts with the recipients and consistently ended up with some tastefully nice ones. With me however it was inevitably the ones nearest the check-out counter that found its way into the basket. And they were often horribly boring ones. Did I tell you about the time when I had given Mariel a “Mace” tear gas spray as a birthday present. I actually found it romantic and even got one for myself. Of course Mariel who was always so good-natured, only laughed it off and said sweetly, “si Daddy naman..”

So let me give advance warning to all those who might receive something from me this Christmas. Mariel had nothing to do with them gifts. And if you ever find some to be kitschy or downright uninspiring, you have no one else to blame but me. All the same I had done my best to recall Mariel’s usual choices. So it will be that nice fluffy comforter for my sister and some country-themed knick knacks for some others. Oh Mariel I really wish you were with me at the shopping center because only you knew my mom’s real dress size. Its one of those things that continue to be a mystery to me.

The night nevertheless closed surrounded by frenzied midnight shoppers and unavoidable Christmas muzak. It was a scene straight out of an SM commercial. And I had never felt so alone in my life. It was as surreal as it could get. Because it had just hit me that I may not have my Mariel with us on this Christmas day.

I miss you Mommy so much. I promise to be home for you this Christmas. Please promise to be somehow there for us too. We love you so much. Merry Christmas.

Mariel’s Christmas Tree

xmas-tree.jpg

I had originally written- off Christmas this year. Of course, I could not get myself to get into the holiday mood because of my present situation. I’ve told you before how it breaks my heart to even hear “Silent Night” played on radio or at the mall. It just reminds me once more how my life is now so utterly incomplete. And that maybe I can never be happy or whole again. How can I even think about being “home for Christmas” when Mariel’s no longer there to make it a joyful reunion for us. For she had simply made it all worthwhile. And now it pains me to even think about “noche buena” and the coming yuletide season. Days are filled with bitterness and lamentations.

But even if it resulted to another Sisyphean ordeal for me, I had decided to put up Mariel’s Christmas tree last night ( you can see a photo of my “valiant” attempt above). Because I knew how much Mariel looked forward to putting up our Christmas decors each year, I had to do this one even as it meant tears again with each “unwrapping”. Because even tiny little colored balls had heaps of memories in them. For I know how Mariel had carefully chosen each one. We had spent countless hours together looking for them at shops in the mall, even though I was not quite totally enthusiastic back then. For you know, we husbands and men often see these things as cheerless chores. Now I know better.

Mariel had planned for the yearly themes. Sometimes it was lilac, sometimes it was blue and silver. Or red and gold. There was even a time it was traditional Russian motif, complete with the onion-shaped golden ornaments. Mariel was a genius at getting our humble abode to look like a perfect “Homes and Gardens” scene. She was very creative and never really spent extravagantly on the project. ( I’ll let you in on her “trade secret’, she actually thought it best to buy some of the Christmas decors in January when they are on “sale” and find imaginative uses for them at the year’s end. Now you know why I loved her so)

I also managed to set up only the Christmas tree on Saturday night. The are many more Christmas “touches” and adornments that I know Mariel would want me to put up from her boxes of goodies. And, I do this wholeheartedly for her. For as long as I can and no matter if I may have to roll that boulder as Sisyphus would forever, I will make sure to have Mariel’s Christmas tree up each year. If only to again serve her memory. If only to get a chance to once more tell her how much I love her.

I love you Mariel. I hope my little decorating “experiment” made you smile tonight.

(I promise that”I’ll be home for Christmas”, for you Mommy)